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Oceans Day comes to Sachs Harbour

Amanda Vaughan
Northern News Services
Published Monday, August 13, 2007

SACHS HARBOUR - World Oceans Day is June 8, but in Sachs Harbour, the ocean doesn't peek out from under the ice until a bit later in the summer.

So on Aug. 18, the community is playing host to this year's Northern extension of the Oceans Day celebrations held by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO).

According to Steve Newton, integrated management planner for DFO, the celebration is held in one of the six Inuvialuit Settlement Region (ISR) communities each year, and so far, Sachs is the fifth community in the ISR to host the event.

The Arctic communities are rarely able to celebrate the day in June with the rest of the world, as the sea ice is still present at that time, so DFO holds delayed celebrations to include them.

"All the communities in the past have really gotten excited, and Sachs is no different, everybody has really jumped on board," said Newton.

The itinerary will include canoe events, a parade, berry eating and fish cutting contests, elders' storytelling and a race called "the life of a char."

"It's a little obstacle course involving some of the things the fish have to avoid or survive to make it to adulthood," Newton explained.

Like the char race, many of the events are ocean-themed and involve educational aspects, but Newton said the day is primarily a "fun event."

He said he is amazed at the number of people who pick up on the message of Oceans Day and are more willing to participate in DFO's other ocean management initiatives.

"People remember us," he said. "When we are in communities, and people say 'hey, you were here for Oceans Day,'" Newton said.

He is based out of DFO's office in Winnipeg, but the department flies up several people from around the country and the territory to the celebrations, as well as a few people from other government departments.

Newton also said that there are usually representatives from the oil and gas industries as well.

Newton is part of a small "oceans group" within DFO focused on integrated oceans management in the Beaufort Sea area, with an office in Winnipeg and one in Inuvik.

The group works with the six ISR communities on projects such as a marine protected area in the works just outside of Tuktoyaktuk.

Newton said Oceans Day celebrations are a way for DFO to "give something back to the communities."

"It helps to get people more excited and involved with what we do," Newton said.

"It's a good opportunity for us to learn about the community, and how they depend on the ocean."

The day is also heavily focused on youth.

"We have kids from the school make up posters about what the oceans mean to them," Newton said, adding many of the events are youth- oriented as well.

This year's Oceans Day celebration has been integrated with Sachs Harbour's annual White Fox Jamboree running Aug. 17-19.